In the United States, 10% of children have asthma and as much as 50% have allergies. While the causes of this high prevalence remain a mystery to doctors, that doesn’t mean that a child with one of these respiratory conditions cannot live a normal life or have a happy and healthy childhood. Asthma can be kept under control and, through a combination of medication and lifestyle changes, flare-ups can be prevented and even eliminated. According to the latest research, asthma can go into remission later on and we can even talk about some children “outgrowing” asthma, as long as parents make sure to provide a safe living environment and reduce exposure to certain allergens.
Clean air reduces the risk of a flare-up
The first thing you need to do if your child has asthma is make sure the air she/she breathes is clean and pollen free. During the cold season, you can easily do that by opening the windows every day, but in spring and summer, when pollen is everywhere, opening the windows can do more harm than good. Use a good air purifier or air filter that captures all the impurities in the air or, if you have air conditioning, turn it on from time to time to filter the air. If you live in a polluted area, open the windows at night or whenever the air is cleaner and use window nets to trap as much dirt and dust as possible.
Get rid of mold
Small to medium mold infestations can be unnoticeable and relatively harmless to people who don’t have asthma or respiratory allergies, but sensitive children experience them at a much higher intensity. The smallest mold patch around the window frames or inside the bathroom cabinet can trigger an entire flare-up of coughing, wheezing and sneezing, so you need to remove it as quickly as possible. However, use the DIY method with caution. Anti-mold sprays in department stores contain chloride and have a very strong irritating smell that aggravates asthma symptoms. Don’t try to scrub the mold off surfaces because that will send spores into the air and your child will inhale them. Either remove mold yourself when your child is not at home or, the safest way, call in a professional mold removal company. After the mold is gone, remove the source of humidity, otherwise it will keep coming back and your child will show symptoms again in a few weeks.
Clean the house regularly
Apart from being unhygienic, a dirty home is a nightmare for a child with asthma or respiratory allergies, especially because of the dust. If the recommended cleaning interval is once a week, if your child has asthma you’ll have to clean up more often. The floors should be vacuumed and washed twice a week and surfaces should be dusted every couple of days. Try to clean every object thoroughly (yes, that includes all those little toy cars and soldiers) and don’t neglect hard to reach surfaces, because they favor the appearance of allergens. Every five years, repaint the walls, because dust can settle there as well and make the air hard to breathe.
Use hypoallergenic cleaning products
Cleaning is crucial when it comes to making your home a safer place for an asthmatic child, but only if you use the right products. Some cleaning solutions get rid of germs, but they are not safe for kids with asthma because they contain harsh, toxic chemical ingredients that cause flare-ups when inhaled. When shopping for floor and carpet cleaning products, look for eco-friendly, hypoallergenic, fragrance-free options. If you work with a professional carpet cleaning company, ask for a guarantee that their cleaning products are safe for a sensitive child. As for the laundry, use a gentle detergent formulated for children’s sensitive skin and rinsing clothes with fabric conditioner because it’s very fragranced and may cause an asthma attack.
Growing up with a pet is beneficial for a child’s development, but if your child has asthma you’ll have to be a bit more careful about pet hairs. If you’re only thinking about getting a pet, consider one that doesn’t shed very much, such as a Maltese terrier, Shih Tzu (see more hypoallergenic dog breeds here), a Russian Blue cat, Siamese cat, a turtle or a bird. If you already have a pet that sheds a lot, then don’t let it spend a lot of time in the child’s room. When it does, make sure the room is well ventilated and brush them regularly to reduce the number of hairs left on clothes and upholstery.
Other asthma triggers to watch out for
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that products which are completely harmless to the parent may cause an attack in an allergic or asthmatic child. Fragrance is a major asthma trigger that you should avoid as much as possible, whether it comes in cleaning or hygiene products. When applying perfume, don’t stay too close to your child, because even a couple of puffs could bother him. In the bathroom, use a natural, not too strong air freshener. Other home scents, such as candles and reed diffusers are also asthma and allergy triggers. Last, but not least, smoking indoors with an asthmatic child is totally out of the question. Not only do you expose the child to the devastating risks of second hand smoke, but also cause an asthma flare-up. Ideally, the entire household should be tobacco free, but if you’re in the process of quitting, smoke only outside and wait a few minutes before coming indoors, because the smoke on clothes can be very bothersome to an asthmatic child.